Sunday, June 23, 2013

 The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

                In 1967 after I graduated from high school, but before I joined the Navy and went for basic training at the Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, I worked for a year in a factory that made valves. The factory was located in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. It was the Walworth Company and it made valves of brass and steel. The sizes ranged from two and a half inches to thirty-six inches. By spinning a wheel attached to a screw, the action opened and closed the valves. They were built as wedge valve and ball valve closures.

                I started as a hand trucker for the fifty-three, steel finishing part of the plant. For the most part, I was trucking for the welding section. I was given a heavy duty, thick-bodied wooden wagon. It had a solid steel handle to pull and heavy rubber wheels to carry the weight. I moved supplies and even valves from one section of the plant to another.
                Dad and I worked the same shift. We went to work together, came home together, and lived together. It was a disaster. He was tired. I was tired and we got on each other’s nerves. We argued all the time. Life at home became a nightmare.
                When a position opened on the afternoon shift, I jumped at it. The position was in the tool room. There was more responsibility and more pay. The icing on the cake was, although we worked in the same area, he was leaving when I came on duty. He was asleep when I got home and we saw each other only on the weekend. It worked out so much better for both of us.

                I would drive home after eleven p.m. each night. It was about a thirty minute drive. My car was a 1966 Ford, Galaxie 500 XL. It was burgundy and had a black vinyl top, black bucket seats, and a T bar shift. The engine was a 390 horsepower with two a barrel carburetor.
                I loved it. The seat was comfortable, the ride was smooth, and when I punched the gas, it would really move out.
                It was a dark night. There was no moon light and occasionally there were wisps of fog winding along the roadway. I was starting to get drowsy.
                I rolled down the window and cranked up the volume on the radio. The station had just started to play “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” I was still tired and it didn’t seem that the cold air or the loud music was working.

                I had just driven across the top of a small knoll. As the front of the car nosed downward and the slightly haunting music was blaring, an owl swooped low. Its body barely missing the hood and the windshield and then it disappeared into the night. The wingspan of the bird was nearly as wide as the car itself. The owl’s eyes were as huge as I am sure mine were. My heart was in my throat and I wasn’t sleepy anymore.

                I pulled into the driveway at home ten minutes later. My hands were still tightly gripping the steering wheel and I was shaking. I was sleepy earlier, but now I would have to unwind before going to bed.

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